Wolverines overcome early shooting struggles to beat Vermont

Saturday, December 17, 2016 - 2:40pm

With 6:54 to go in the second quarter, the Michigan women’s basketball team found itself in a 13-13 tie with lowly Vermont. The Wolverines had made just 20 percent of their shots, and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty had scored a meager three points.

But senior guard Siera Thompson came to the rescue for Michigan, draining a 3-pointer that changed the momentum of the game. The Wolverines outscored the Catamounts 21-10 through the remainder of the half, and subsequently cruised to an easy 78-55 victory. Thompson finished with six points, four rebounds and six assists, while sophomore center Hallie Thome nabbed a double-double.

“(Thompson) has been our most consistent player, night in and night out,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She has just always been critical to our team.”

The game remained scoreless until about two minutes into the first quarter, when junior guard Jillian Dunston hit a jumper to break the deadlock. She would tally four more points in the next five minutes, guiding Michigan to an 11-3 lead. Dunston finished Saturday with 12 points and eight rebounds, narrowly missing her second double-double of the season.

“Coach told me to be aggressive because she told me that they weren’t going to play me,” Dunston said. “I was able to look at the basket and see a pathway, whether that was a shot or a drive.”

Then the mistakes began.

The Wolverines missed seven consecutive shots, which allowed Vermont to mount a 10-2 run that lasted more than seven minutes. Michigan was suddenly in a dogfight with a team that came into the contest ranked 303rd in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

That run came to a screeching halt when Thompson sunk her bucket, which ultimately ended any dreams of a monumental upset for the Catamounts.

The third quarter belonged to freshman guard Kysre Gonderezick, as she came off the bench and accounted for 11 of the Wolverines’ 25 points in the frame. In contrast, Flaherty was still uncharacteristically ineffective, having made just three of her 13 shots before sitting out the rest of the quarter.

“The sign of a good team is when you have multiple people who can contribute,” Barnes Arico said. “If someone has an off night, there will be other people that are there to have a great night.”

But Flaherty came back in the fourth quarter and found another way to contribute, passing the ball off to Thome, who made three layups in the opening minutes of the frame. Thome finished the quarter with eight of the Michigan’s 19 points.

“The guards put me in perfect position to be able to score the ball,” Thome said. “Also, we had a one-on-one in the paint. Coach said so at the beginning, and the guards did a great job of getting the ball in.”

The Wolverines’ next two games are at home against American and Rutgers, teams that are ranked 237th and 205th in the RPI, respectively. On paper, these should be relatively easy wins for the Michigan.

But if the Wolverines learned anything from Saturday’s contest, they will be looking to avoid repeating the same mistakes that put them in such a precarious position against the Catamounts in the first half.

“Each and every day is another opportunity for us to get better as a team,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought we missed a lot of easy shots. Maybe making those shots we missed early and continuing to improve on that is something I’d like to see.”